By Ms. Lynn Biella, Director of Psychological Health
/ Published November 02, 2013
BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE - East Granby, Conn. --
Thanksgiving is fast approaching. This may bring to mind a good meal, a day watching football or spending time with family. Maybe what comes to mind is negotiating holiday traffic, seeing that annoying relative or missing someone no longer with you. Either way, I propose this is a perfect time of year to begin a gratitude practice. What is a gratitude practice and why should you bother? A gratitude practice is actively giving thanks for all of the blessings you have in your life. Gratitude keeps you positive and is a key to happiness. It allows us to direct our focus to the good and the beauty in the world. Our mood is directly related to our thoughts. It's not possible to be unhappy while thinking about positive thoughts and the reverse is true as well.
We have all had the experience of taking things for granted. You might not give much thought to good health until you get sick or injured. What about getting in your car and having it start or flipping a switch and having the lights come on in your home? You can probably think of thousands of examples of things that we take for granted until something happens to remind us of what a difference those things make in our lives. Why not appreciate them today?
There are many simple things that you can do to practice gratitude.
Keep a gratitude journal. Write down five things that you are grateful for each day.
- Say thank you more often.
- Give at least one compliment a day.
- Recognize at least one ungrateful thought per day and replace it with a grateful one. For example, if you think traffic is a nightmare and people drive like idiots change that to gratitude for having transportation, the ability to drive, arriving at your destination safely.
- Practice mindfulness to appreciate each moment. Slow down and pay attention. What do you feel, see, smell, hear, taste? For example, make a point of enjoying every bite of your meal or observing the beauty of the sunrise as you drive into work.
- Identify the best thing that happened to you today. Do this as a family, with your partner or on your own at the end of the day. This will help guide your thoughts to the many good things that happened during the course of your day.
We do not always have a choice in what comes our way in life but we can always choose how we respond to it. When faced with a bad situation, ask yourself what you can learn from it or what you might be grateful for when you look back on it. Maybe you will find that you are more resilient than you thought. Maybe you got support from unexpected places. Maybe you will have a new appreciation for the happy moments. Remember, we couldn't fully know pleasure without having the experience of pain.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to begin a daily practice of saying thank you and having gratitude for all the amazing things in this world and in your life.